BWW Review: JUNGLE BOOK in Bridgeport
Rudyard Kipling would be delighted with the Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre's production of his book, The Jungle Book. Loosely based on both Kipling's stories and the recent Disney movie, Phill Hill's version is great entertainment for both children, parents and grandparents.
In a nutshell, man cub Mowgli (Joe Cardozo) has spent most of his life in the jungle with the panther Bagheera (Lynnette Marshall) and the bear Baloo (Lance Anthony) and their friend, Dodo (as in bird, played by Erin Williams). Bagheera feels it is time for Mowgli (now a teenager) to go back to the village to be with other humans. It isn't just because the man cub doesn't belong in the jungle. Word has it that the fierce tiger Shere Khan (Jason Parry) is on the prowl, challenging King Louie (T. Sean Maher) to head the jungle, who is backed up by his court servants, Orangelo (Emma LaPlace) and Lemonjelo (Cynthia Riviera).
Hill's script infuses the story with jokes locals understand. When King Louie gives directions, he says to avoid the Bass Pro Shops, which recently opened in Bridgeport. Get it? Extra traffic. Hunting. Animals. The casting was perfect, headed by the limber and affable Joe Cardoza. Lance Anthony can play just about any role in any show, and was amusing as Baloo and his interpretation of Frank Sinatra's hit song, "That's Life." Lynnette Marshall blew me away with her amazing voice. (She should record a CD stat. The video on her website doesn't quite capture how magnificent she sounds.) Erin Williams was funny and likeable as Dodo, the dimwitted and clumsy but well-meaning bird. Emma LaPlace and Cynthia Rivera were delightful as King Louie's servants. T. Sean Maher was a riot as the often bumbling king, and his transition to a cooperating co-king with Shere Khan was smooth and plausible. Speaking of smooth, Jason Parry was masterful as the dreaded tiger, with a superb combination of elegance and malevolence. Kudos also to Leif Smith for the set and Chris Gensur for the sound. Lesley Neilson Bowman's costumes were perfect, as was the make-up, which was not credited. If the actors did their own makeup, they are experts. But then, they are in great company because the Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre is in a league of its own.
The Jungle Book runs through February 14 at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill Street in Bridgeport. For tickets call 203-576-1636 or visit www.mycabaret.org.